Turkey’s attack on Afrin

photo by peter marshall
Photo by Peter Marshall

On 20 January 2018 Turkey launched an unprovoked attack on Afrin in northern Syria when 72 Turkish jets bombarded towns and villages. This was followed with a ground invasion by the Turkish army and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) auxiliaries. By 26 January over 50 civilians were reported killed by Turkish shelling and air strikes. However, the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) mounted fierce resistance, inflicting casualties on the Turkish forces. Cigdem Dogu, of the Kurdistan Women’s Communities, warned that the war on Afrin would be Turkey’s Vietnam and end President Erdogan’s rule: ‘He has ordered his own death. It will be the will of the peoples who will fight and who will prevail, not his advanced technology.’


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Turkish state: international pariah

Photo: Freedom Committee for Nuriye and Semih

Since the 15 July 2016 failed coup attempt, the Turkish government has arrested, fired or suspended from work some 190,000 people. Approximately 50,000 people have been gaoled, including 13 People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MPs. Central government has taken direct control of 82 municipalities in predominantly Kurdish areas of Turkey, suspended democratically elected co-mayors and gaoled 90 of them on terrorism charges. About 40% of top Turkish generals and admirals have been removed from military service and 400 personnel taken out of NATO postings. Nearly a quarter of Turkey’s judiciary have been dismissed or detained. 178 journalists are in Turkey’s prisons and over 150 media outlets have been shut down. President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have enforced a dictatorship on Turkey.


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Political protesters in Turkey need urgent international support

Freedom For Nuriye and Semih Committee

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for nearly 120 days and need international support to highlight their struggle. They are among the more than 10,000 teachers, academics and others who were sacked from their posts by the viciously reactionary Turkish government as part of the repression which has been meted out ever since the failed coup of 15 July 2016.


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Turkey’s referendum: resistance is coming

turkey referendum
'No' voters have protested against the referendum result

That the opposition No vote gained almost half the votes cast in Turkey’s 16 April 2017 constitutional referendum, under conditions of fierce repression and blatant ballot rigging, should serve as a warning to President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Yes vote to grant Erdogan dictatorial powers was 51.4% and the No vote 48.6%. Erdogan lost in the big cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Diyarbakir and in the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions and the predominantly Kurdish south east. The Financial Times commented: ‘The new constitution will turn the president into a modern-day sultan, allowing him ample opportunity to complete his subordination of Turkey’s institutions…This is a tragedy for the country. Mr Erdogan offers discord, not reform or development’ (18 April 2017). Erdogan threatens not only the Turkish and Kurdish people but the entire Middle East and he will be confronted and brought down.


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Turkey’s referendum held in a climate of fear


Turkey’s President Erdogan is holding a constitutional referendum on 16 April 2017 in the midst of the most ferocious repression, in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation where anyone who dares to say ‘No’ to the proposed constitutional changes is branded a terrorist. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) want to change Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary system into a system that removes all checks and balances on the president’s powers and allows Erdogan to rule until 2029. The vote takes place as Turkish state forces are fighting a war against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The referendum is conducted after the United Nations reported that on 1 December 2016 ‘the [Turkish] authorities has detained or imprisoned more than a third of all journalists imprisoned worldwide on that day’.


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Erdogan is wrecking Turkey

Erdogan is wrecking Turkey
Turkish goverment temporarily bans all protest activities in capital Ankara.

On 21 January 2017, 339 out of 550 MPs voted in Turkey’s National Assembly for constitutional changes that are to be put to a referendum, to be held no later than the third week of April 2017. These changes are described as transforming the 94-year-old republic from a parliamentary to a presidential system; this misrepresents what will be the establishment of autocratic one-man rule.

The draft constitution, drawn up in secret by President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), removes all checks and balances on presidential power. If the electorate approves the changes, the president will be able to dissolve parliament at will, unilaterally declare states of emergency, appoint half of the top judges, all senior civil servants, heads of police, the military and university vice- chancellors. President Erdogan will be able to rule until 2029. The referendum will be held with ten opposition MPs from the Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in gaol on terrorism charges and 76 Kurdish co-mayors imprisoned. All critical media have been shut down or silenced by fear in Turkey. The referendum will take place against a background of the Turkish armed forces waging war against the country’s Kurdish population and conducting operations in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan and his allies will try and win support by accusing foreign powers of attempting to carve Turkey up and backing terrorist attacks. Turkey’s political and civil institutions are being hijacked. Meanwhile the British government gives Erdogan diplomatic and military support: Britain has sold Turkey £330m worth of weapons since 2015, including bombs, missiles, drones, helicopters and body armour. British Prime Minister Theresa May had no intention of raising his human rights abuses during her meeting with Erdogan in Ankara on 28 January; she agreed a new deal worth £100m for BAE Systems to design fighter jets for Turkey with Turkish Aerospace Industries, and May and Erdogan discussed future ‘security cooperation and counterterrorism’.


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Turkey turned into a war zone

turkey war zone

Turkey’s Kurdish areas have been turned into a war zone. Turkish jets are bombing Kurds and their allies in Syria. President Erdogan has claimed parts of Syria, Iraq and Greece for Turkey. Some 130,000 government workers, judges, soldiers, police, teachers and others have been dismissed from their jobs or arrested in Turkey since the failed coup of 15 July 2016; 37,000 people are detained without trial. In October, Erdogan extended the state of emergency, allowing him to rule by decree. Ten Kurdish MPs have been gaoled, over 30 mayors have been dismissed and gaoled. Thousands of Kurdish and Turkish members of political parties have been arrested. Torture and beatings are commonplace. Turkey holds more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. Scores of media outlets and hundreds of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been closed down. The scale of repression and warfare that the Turkish state is mounting threatens to escalate to the point that it over-reaches itself. Resistance is growing. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Turkey invades Syria: escalating war on Kurds

Rojava february2014

On 24 August 2016 Turkey launched an invasion of Syria with tanks, several hundred Turkish soldiers and 1,500 fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The invasion force entered the town of Jarablus with US drones in attendance, feeding information to the Turkish forces. Turkey’s defence minister, Fikri Isit, said the intention was to degrade Islamic State (IS) and ‘prevent the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from uniting Kurdish cantons’. IS had controlled Jarablus for three years; it left the town without a fight. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) executive member Murat Karayilan explained, ‘IS evacuated the area between Jarablus and Azaz, so what is happening is an exchange rather than a military operation’; IS and the Turkish government made a deal.

Locals reported IS fighters travelling from Jarablus across the border to Turkey and donning FSA uniforms. As Hisyar Ozsoy MP, from the predominantly Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, put it, ‘This is not an operation to rescue the town of Jarablus from IS…This is an operation to rescue IS from Kurdish forces, who last week captured the town of Manbij and defeated IS.’ In the name of fighting IS, Turkey has escalated its war against the Kurds. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Coup attempt in Turkey: war on Kurds continues

turk beat reuters

The failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 demonstrates the fragility of Turkish society and has accelerated its descent into fascism and war. President Erdogan said the coup attempt was ‘a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army’. At the latest count some 60,000 people have been detained or sacked; soldiers, academics, journalists, judges, civil servants, teachers, anyone who opposed Erdogan’s government, is at risk of being accused of backing the coup. Captives have been paraded before cameras showing signs of beatings. Under the state of emergency declared on 20 July all constitutional constraints on the president have been removed. With a third of Turkey’s generals and admirals arrested and 2,745 judges, a quarter of the judiciary, sacked, the military and the courts will have difficulty functioning. As the Financial Times put it, ‘Turkey faces a risk of institutional collapse’ (22 July 2016). Trevor Rayne reports.


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The Turkish state, the Turkish working class, and the Kurdish revolution

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 105 - February/March 1992

Republished as Chapter 3.3 in The New Warlords: from the Gulf War to the recolonisation of the Middle East, ed. Eddie Abrahams, Larkin Publications, 1994.

The Turkish working class and Kurdish oppressed masses are facing very conflicting tasks and dangers. Any analysis of the political conditions resulting from the general election in October 1991, of the policies of the newly established liberal-social democratic coalition must begin with an examination of the revolutionary dynamic of the labour movement in Turkey and the Kurdish resistance. MURAD AKIN, a member of a revolutionary organisation in Turkey (Gelenek), evaluates the newly developing trends in the class struggle in Turkey.


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Turkey heading for fascism and war

President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government are driving Turkey towards fascism and war. The 24 November 2015 shooting down of a Russian bomber was planned at the highest levels of the Turkish state. Since the AKP’s electoral victory on 1 November Kurdish towns and cities in Turkey’s south east have been put under curfew and military siege. Turkish jets daily bomb Kurds in Iraq and its army shells the People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) in Rojava, northern Syria. Scores of people have been arrested, imprisoned and killed across Turkey for opposing the murderous state. Erdogan and the AKP are a threat not just to the Kurdish and Turkish people – they are a danger to us all. Trevor Rayne reports.    

The election

On 1 November President Erdogan, leader of the AKP, presented the electorate with a choice: it is either me or it is chaos. Sufficient people were frightened enough to vote for the AKP, hoping for stability. Within hours of the result being known Erdogan said he would hold a referendum to install an executive presidency, granting himself dictatorial powers. The Turkish lira rose 3% against the US dollar and shares jumped 5.4% on the Turkish stock exchange. But if capitalists and AKP voters think they are getting stability they are seriously deluded.


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Turkey descending into chaos

Turkish President Erdogan ‘risks making the country ungovernable. Turkey is showing alarming signs of a descent into chaos’ (Financial Times 23 September 2015). With the failure of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to win a sufficient majority in the 7 June 2015 elections to form a new government and change the constitution from a parliamentary to a presidential system, Erdogan has unleashed war and repression against the country’s Kurdish people. Army commanders have control in Turkey’s south-eastern provinces. Kurdish communities have been placed under martial law; civilians have been murdered by soldiers. Turkish jets have been bombing Kurds in northern Iraq and Turkey wants to establish a military buffer zone in Syria.

When the Kurdish-led People’s Democratic Party (HDP) broke through the 10% general election threshold and gained 81 MPs, the AKP made no effort at forming a coalition government with any other party and the Turkish military began preparations for an assault on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Turkish government agreed to US warplanes using Incirlik Air Base to attack Islamic State (IS) forces on 23 July 2015. Within a day it became clear that Turkey had made the concession to gain acquiescence from NATO for its relaunch of war on the PKK. Three bombing raids were mounted by Turkey’s army on IS, 300 on the PKK in northern Iraq. Thousands of HDP members and supporters were arrested across Turkey compared to a handful of known IS sympathisers.


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RCG condemns Ankara massacre

On Saturday 10 October at least 128 people died and over 500 were wounded when bombs exploded at a peace rally in Ankara organised and supported by Turkish trade union federations, the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and other left-wing Kurdish and Turkish organisations.

We condemn this barbaric act and send our condolences and solidarity to the families and organisations of those killed and wounded.

The rally was organised in the run-up to the Turkish general election on 1 November to call for peace and for an end to attacks by the AKP government on Kurdish areas in Turkey and Iraq and on Kurdish political representatives in the HDP. Since the previous election result on 7 June where the AKP failed to get the majority it hoped for, it has launched an all out war on the Kurdish people and their organisations (see FRFI 246).


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Turkey: Erdogan responds to election with war

Protest in London after the murder of 32 young Kurdish and Turkish socialist by IS

President Erdogan and the Turkish state have responded to the electoral success of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on 7 June 2015 with war and repression. By achieving 13.1% of the vote and 80 MPs in Turkey’s general election, President Erdogan’s plan to change Turkey’s constitution from a parliamentary into a presidential system was thwarted by the HDP. The HDP combines socialist and democratic forces and is primarily Kurdish-led. Immediately after the election increased Turkish military activity was accompanied by murder and arrests of Kurdish activists and their supporters. The peace process, underway since March 2013, was effectively over and unilaterally ended by the Turkish state with the all-out bombardment of Kurdish areas beginning on 24 July. Trevor Rayne reports.


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Turkey heads for turbulent times

The 7 June 2015 parliamentary election in Turkey will be critical for the country’s future. President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) need at least 330 of the 550 seats in order to change the constitution from a parliamentary system into a presidential one. Erdogan scorns what he calls the ‘many-voiced’ parliament. The choice is between increased dictatorial powers, wielded by Erdogan and the state, and the democratic forces led by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Kurds.  


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Crucial times in Turkey

Abdullah Ocalan

The coming weeks leading up to Turkey’s Grand National Assembly elections in June could prove crucial for Turkey. Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have offered the government the possibility of ending the armed conflict with the Turkish state. In response the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may split and President Erdogan is trying to establish dictatorial powers.


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Turkey: Soma mining disaster was murder

On 13 May, 787 miners were underground at Soma coal mine in western Turkey, when an explosion propelled toxic carbon monoxide into the tunnels, at the same time knocking out the ventilation and lift system. 301 men are now known to have died. For Soma’s mining community, responsibility for the tragedy – Turkey’s worst-ever mining disaster – has been laid squarely at the feet of the Turkish government and the mining company, Soma Holdings. On the demonstrations that have taken place almost daily since then, not only in Soma but in nearby Izmir, in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara, banners proclaim: ‘It was not an accident – it was murder!’


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May Day in Turkey: Protestors resist police violence

Once again Istanbul has been the scene of police repression during the May Day demonstrations. Demonstrators tried to reach Taksim Square, historically important for the working class movement in Turkey, and were brutally attacked by police. The reactionary AKP government could only prevent the workers and revolutionaries entering the square with extraordinary measures (which are actually quite ordinary these days in Turkey against any kind of mass demonstration).


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People’s resistance against the police terror in Turkey

June 2013 saw the most militant and spontaneous mass resistance of people against police terror and state repression in Turkey. Within days a peaceful demonstration of a relatively small number of environmental activists to save a park in central Istanbul from development had turned into a nationwide act of resistance. It became a major crisis of the political system - unprecedented for decades. The inspiring mass actions of the people have been the greatest challenge so far to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which was, after winning the elections for the third consecutive time in 2011, confident and arrogant. Ali Erkaslan reports.


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Turkey: people’s resistance against police terror

Since the end of May, the most militant and spontaneous mass resistance against police terror and state repression has emerged in Turkey. Within days, a peaceful demonstration by environmental activists to save a public park in central Istanbul from demolition has developed into a major crisis of the political system.


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PKK killings

Fidan Dogan, Leyla Soylemez and Sakine Cansiz were assassinated in Paris on 9 January. Tens of thousands of people took to the Parisian streets to salute the three women’s coffins, draped in the flag of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Many thousands more followed them in Diyarbakir, in south east Turkey. Cansiz was a founding member of the PKK and is likely to have been central to discussions that were underway between the PKK and the Turkish state, seeking an end to the armed conflict between them that has been waged since 1984. Over 40,000 people have been killed in this conflict, some 500 in 2012. The PKK suspects that the assassination is the work of a faction within the Turkish state that wants to sabotage the discussions. Omer Guney was charged with the murders by the French police on 21 January; the PKK say he was not a member of their organisation.


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Turkey – repression and censorship

On 10 September 2012, the biggest trial of pro-Kurdish and leftist journalists in Turkish history began.

36 of the 44 accused have been detained since nationwide police raids in December last year. They are charged under anti-terrorism legislation with being members of an illegal organisation, by which the Turkish government means the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK – Union of Communities in Kurdistan). The KCK is an umbrella organisation, which developed out of the banned Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK). Since 2009 8,000 people have been detained on charges of KCK membership, including Kurdish MPs and municipal politicians, as well as members of the executive committees of pro-Kurdish organisations, lawyers, human rights activists, trade unionists and, of course, journalists. The charges arise out of local political activities, simply for representing Abdullah Ocalan (Chairman of PKK, in gaol since 1999) or even for newspaper reports critical of the government – which are alleged to support the political aims of the PKK.


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Turkish state condemns Israel but attacks Kurds

Turkish state condemns Israel but attacks Kurds

As a result of the Israeli attack on the Flotilla to Gaza, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists and injuries to many more, there were protests throughout the region and the rest of world, and Turkish flags were carried alongside Palestinian flags as a symbol of resistance and freedom.


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Turkey: Middle Eastern revolution under siege

Middle Eastern revolution faces the prospect of being liquidated at its pivotal point in Anatolia/ Kurdistan. This attack is the third of its kind and the most serious; the previous crises being the fascist coup of 1980 and the counter-revolutionary climate which followed the collapse of the socialist countries in the early 1990s. The weakening of the Middle Eastern revolution, following the imperialist Gulf War, is essentially rooted in the isolation of the Kurdish national liberation struggle.

Over the last eight years, the isolation of the Kurdish freedom movement has gradually led to the abandonment of its initial strategy and aims. These included, for example, a pledge to bring about 'the October Revolution of the Middle East'.


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Turkey: Prison massacre

FRFI 159 February / March 2001

Between 19 and 22 December 2000 the Turkish military and police carried out a massive and brutal operation against revolutionary prisoners. The prisoners were protesting against plans to change the structure of the prison system from one where prisoners are able to freely associate within the confines of their dormitories to a cellular system, whereby they will be subject to lengthy periods of solitary confinement. 20,000 grenades, gas and incendiary bombs were dropped on 20 prisons and 10,000 military and police personnel deployed. Thirty-three people were killed and hundreds wounded. There has been no international outcry and the story barely flickered across British TV screens over the Christmas period.

A visit to Turkish prisons by the UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture had just concluded on 19 December when the security forces began bombarding the prisons, breaking through the walls with bombs and power tools, and then throwing in grenade after grenade. After the fashion of the most murderous NATO operations, the massacre was named Hayata Donus which means Return to Life, with the state claiming its aim was to 'rescue' prisoners who had been forced against their will to participate in a protest hunger-strike. The real aim was to break the prisoners' resistance and move them by force to the new cellular prisons.


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Turkish troops out of Kurdistan!

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

On 4 July, US troops detained some Turkish soldiers in Suleymaniya, a city in northern Iraq, opening a rift between old friends. The US raid targeted a building of the Turkman Front and a nearby Turkish government liaison office. 24 people were arrested, including 11 members of the Turkish Special Forces. US troops beat up the Special Forces soldiers when they tried to talk to them, put plastic bags over their heads, threw them into the street and then onto some trucks. The mighty Turkish army has never been humiliated like this before.

In reprisal for the detentions, Turkey shut the Habur frontier gate, the only crossing between Turkey and Iraq, to lorries carrying supply materials to US troops. It remained open to other traffic, such as lorries carrying United Nations humanitarian aid. The Turkish Special Force was on its way to assassinate the Kurdish Mayor in the oil rich city of Kirkuk and to bomb Iranian and Syrian interests in the region. The aim was to stir up the region as a pretext for sending more troops into south Kurdistan to pursue Turkish interests.


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No extradition to Turkey

On 30 January British police arrested 28-year-old Turkish refugee Onder Dolutas at his home in London, following a request from the Turkish authorities for his extradition. The following day Bow Street Magistrates court released him on conditional bail. FRFI has been participating in the campaign against his extradition; at the first hearing of his case on 14 March over 50 people staged a lively demonstration in solidarity with Onder and opposition to British collaboration with Turkish fascism. The case has now been adjourned for a review on 11 April. The main hearing will take place on 8 May.

Onder was arrested on charges unrelated to any activity in this country. His arrest was carried out by British authorities on the request of the Turkish government. From 1995 to 2000 Onder Dolutas was a student of maritime engineering at the University of Istanbul, where he participated in the democratic activities of the students’ union. He arrived in Britain in May 2001 and was granted refugee status in January 2003.


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Turkish state attacks Kurdish freedom fighters

First, it was Winston Churchill in 1924, then it was Saddam Hussein in 1988, and most recently it has been Turkey in 2006 that used chemical weapons on the Kurdish people. Unlike Saddam Hussein, the Turkish Republic has yet to be punished and has not been condemned by the West for possessing ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ or using them against Kurdish freedom fighters.

The Turkish army staged an operation against the Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Kurdistan between 24 and 26 March 2006. On the last day of the operation 14 guerrillas were massacred with chemical weapons after the army had failed to eliminate them using conventional weapons. This has in fact been the pattern since 1992: the Turkish army has intermittently utilised chemical weapons against members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) when it fails to stop their advance by conventional methods.

In an attempt to cover up this atrocity, the Turkish state approved legislation overnight that enabled the army to bury the guerrillas in the rural spot where they were killed. However, six of them were citizens of Syria, Iran and Iraq, and their bodies were not handed over to the guerrillas’ families in order to ensure that they were not subjected to an independent post-mortem in another country. This was all done by the pro-Islamic government even though Islamic traditions and rules order otherwise.


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